The fascinating art and history of Athens’s First Cemetery in a new guide book

Yiannoulis Halepas’s ‘Sleeping Girl’ was sculpted for a young woman who committed suicide at the age of 18, in 1878, after her father prevented her from being with her beloved, an Italian opera singer. (Photo: Nikos Vatopoulos)

In Greek, the words for monument (mnimeio) and tomb (mnima) both come from the word “mnimi,” or memory, making cemeteries places where death, life and continuity are celebrated. And while other countries make sure to maintain their biggest cemeteries in a state of perfection and to develop them for tourism – like the Pere Lachaise in Paris, for example – in Greece, the country’s most important cemetery, Athens First Cemetery, has for years been neglected by authorities.

While there are numerous coffee-table and other such books on the cemetery, there has never been a comprehensive a guide for people interested in its outdoor sculpture and the eminent men and women of politics, the sciences, the arts and the letters who are buried there.

This, however, is no longer the case, thanks to Olkos publications, which recently released an up-to-date and user-friendly guide of 170 pages, comprising texts by Athens University Professor Emeritus Kardamitsis-Adami Maro and architect Maria Daniil, and photographs by the architect and photographer Yiorgis Yerolymbos.

The guide is an initiative of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, which has done some amazing work in nature conservation and in the restoration of important historic buildings.

But what is so interesting about this guide to the First Cemetery? First and foremost, the maps that show the number of each grave site and help visitors locate those that are most valuable from an artistic or historical point of view – anyone who has been there knows how hectic the layout is.

Athens First Cemetery was established by royal decree in 1837 and has been in continuous operation for the entire 180 years since. It was expanded in the 1940s to include a section for Protestants and Jews, while there are also many Catholics in the Protestant section.

The Olkos guide provides valuable information on its history, but also extensive references and explanatory texts on the art of great sculptors or craftsmen that adorns many of the burial site.

Apart from the emblematic “Sleeping Girl” by Yiannoulis Halepas (which will likely be removed for preservation to the National Sculpture Gallery), there are 1,000 other remarkable sculptures, temples, tombstones and monuments created by celebrated Greek artists of the past and present. There are also works by acclaimed architects such as Lysandros Kaftantzoglou, Ernst Ziller, Theophil Hansen and Aris Konstantinidis.

Foreground: Tomb of the Pesmazoglou family (right) and Melina Mercouri (middle). Background: Tomb of Heinrich Schliemann (left on the high pedestal).

Tomb of Sofia Afentaki, a work of Yannoulis Chalepas.



Grave of Georgios Averoff

In the cemetery there are three churches. The main is the Church of Saint Theodores and there is also a smaller of Saint Lazarus. The third church is a Catholic church. 

The cemetery includes the tomb of Heinrich Schliemann, designed by Ernst Ziller, the tomb of Ioannis Pesmazoglou, that of Georgios Averoff, and one named I Koimomeni (the Sleeping Girl), by the sculptor Yannoulis Chalepas, from the island Tinos. There are also separate burial places for Protestants and Jews.

Πέθανε ο Στάθης Ψάλτης σε ηλικία 66 ετών … Sadly Stathis Psaltis passed away at 66 years old

«Έφυγε» από τη ζωή σε ηλικία 66 ετών ο αγαπημένος ηθοποιός Στάθης Ψάλτης έπειτα από σκληρή μάχη με τον καρκίνο.

Τον τελευταίο καιρό ο ηθοποιός νοσηλευόταν σε νοσοκομείο ενώ από την Κυριακή του Πάσχα η κατάσταση της υγείας του επιδεινώθηκε και μπήκε στη Μονάδα Εντατικής Θεραπείας στο αντικαρκινικό νοσοκομείο «Άγιος Σάββας».

Ποιός ήταν ο Στάθης Ψάλτης

Γεννήθηκε στο Βέλο Κορινθίας όπου έζησε τα παιδικά του χρόνια μέχρι την ηλικία των 11 ετών όταν η οικογένειά του μετακόμισε στο Αιγάλεω.

Σπούδασε στη Δραματική σχολή του Κωστή Μιχαηλίδη και τελείωσε τη Νομική Σχολή στο Πανεπιστήμιο Αθήνας. 

Παντρεύτηκε στα 17 του την Τάρια Μπούρα, αλλά χώρισε γρήγορα. Από αυτόν τον γάμο έχει μία κόρη. ενώ τα τελευταία χρόνια είχε τη χαρά να γίνει και παππούς. Η κόρη του, Μαρία Ψάλτη, του έχει «χαρίσει» δυο εγγονές, τις οποίες ο ηθοποιός λάτρευε. Το 2006 παντρεύτηκε για δεύτερη φορά την αγαπημένη του Χριστίνα.


Η κόρη του Στάθη Ψάλτη ονομάζεται Μαρία Ψάλτη και μητέρα της είναι η ηθοποιός Κάτια Κυβέλου.


Η μικρότερη κόρη της Μαρίας Ψάλτη.

Έπαιξε σε πολλές ταινίες του ελληνικού κινηματογράφου αλλά και στο θέατρο. Έγινε ιδιαίτερα δημοφιλής μαζί με την Καίτη Φίνου στη δεκαετία του 1980 με εμπορικές ταινίες όπως Καμικάζι αγάπη μου, Τροχονόμος Βαρβάρα, Τα καμάκια, Βασικά καλησπέρα σας, Και ο πρώτος ματάκιας, Τρελός είμαι ό,τι θέλω κάνω, Έλα να αγαπηθούμε ντάρλινγκ, Μάντεψε τι κάνω τα βράδια.

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Stathis Psaltis (Greek: Στάθης Ψάλτης; born February 27, 1951 in Velo, Korinthia) was a Greek cinema, TV and theatre comedian. He was mostly famous for starring in many 1980s films.

Biography

He was born in Velo Korinthias where he lived during his childhood until the age of 11, when his family moved to Aigaleo.

He studied at the acting school of Kostis Michailidis and finished the law school of the university of Athens.

He starred in a lot of Greek films and also in theater. He became incredibly popular along with different actress in the 1980s with commercial movies such as “Kamikazi agapi mou”, “Troxonomos Varvara”, “Ta kamakia”, “Vasika Kalispera sas”, “Kai o protos matakias”, “Trellos eimai oti thelo kano”, “Ela na agapithoume darling”, “Mantepse ti kano ta vradia” and many other movies.

Filmography

Pou Pas Re Giorgaki me tetoio Kairo (2011)

Nou Dou oi Asximi (2008)

Oi Prasines, Oi Kokkines, Oi Thalassies oi Tsouxtres (2008)

Ta Thelei o…..Kolotravas Mas (2007)

Achristos, atalantos, asximos alla diashmos (2007) …. Himself

An m’agapas (2006) TV Series …. Dimitris Marnis

Kotes (2003)

Kalimera zoe (1994) TV Series

Erastis, O (1990) (V) …. Stathis Birbitsolis (The Lover)

Apagogi sta tyfla (1989) …. Stathis (The Blind Kidnapping)

Protaris batsos kai i troteza, O (1989)

Treladiko polyteleias (1989) …. Stathis Ksetripis (The Luxurious Nuthouse)

Akatamahitos pilotos (1988) (V) (An Irresistible pilot)

Enas, alla… leon (1988) …. Stathis

Kai deilos kai tolmiros (1988) …. Markos Tremoulas

Megalos paramythas, O (1988)

Kivernisseis peftoune alla o Psaltis menei, I (1987) (V) …. Mantis Kalhas

Pantachou paron (1987)

Xenodoheio kastri (1987)

Kavalaris ton FM Stereo, O (1986) …. Stathis Papastathis

Kleftroni kai gentleman (1986) …. Stathis Ledoakridis… aka Κλεφτρόνι και tζέντλεμαν (Greece)

Psilos, lignos kai pseftaros (1985)

Rakos… no. 14, kai o protos bounakias (1985) …. Iraklis Spinos… aka Rakos No. 14

Ela na… gymnothoume, darling (1984) …. Stathis… aka Ela n’ agapithoume, darling

Trelos eimai, oti thelo kano (1984) …. Michalis Vidas

Kamikazi, agapi mou (1983) …. Efstathios Sgouros

Pes ta Chrisostome (1983)

Kai… o protos matakias (1982)

Periergos, O (1982) …. Simos

Sainia, Ta (1982) …. Sissifos

Vasika… kalispera sas (1982) …. Efstathios Koubaris… aka Radiopeirates, Oi

Eisai stin EOK, pathe gia tin EOK (1981) … aka Eisai stin EOK, mathe gia tin EOK

Kamakia, Ta (1981)

Kotsos exo apo to NATO, O (1981)

Pame gia kafe? (1981)

Trohonomos Varvara (1981)

Gefsi apo Ellada! (1980)

Kotsos stin EOK, O (1980)

Madepse ti kano ta bradia (1980) …. Kosmas Papakosmas

Parthenokynigos, O (1980)

Podogyros, O (1980)

“Symvolaiografos, O” (1979) TV Series …. Panagiotis Merkatos

Fadarines, Oi (1979) … aka Οι Φανταρίνες (Greece)

Paidia tis piatsas, Ta (1979)

“Emporoi ton ethnon, Oi” (1973) TV Series …. Joker

Diamantia sto gymno sou soma (1972) … aka Diamantia sto gymno kormi tis (Greece: TV title)

Greek American Miners In Shadow Of Ludlow Massacre of the Sacrifice of Louis Tikas


Photos from the Chris Melonakis Archive

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, coal miners used candles to make their way deep underground through the mines, a dangerous practice because of the highly explosive nature of coal dust.

The 1929 funeral of Chris Melonakis’ grandfather, who died from an infection 10 days after unsanitary dental work. He worked in the mine until the day before he died.


An unidentified man in traditional Greek garb from the early 1900s.

This story originally aired on 9/15/2016.

On September 15, 1913 the United Mine Workers union voted to strike in southern Colorado to protest dangerous working conditions and poor pay.

The strike eventually blew up into one of the the most violent times in labor history. In 1914, women and children suffocated when company-backed militiamen burned the union tent camp at Ludlow, Colorado. The Ludlow Massacre ignited 10 days of violence known as the Colorado Coal Field War.

Hundreds of thousands of Greeks immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s. For many the only work they could get was in the dangerous coal mines around the West. Most of the Greeks in southern Colorado were working in coal mines owned by the huge Colorado Fuel and Iron company, known as CF&I. The mines were notoriously dangerous and the miners lived in extreme poverty.  

Greek miners have been called the bone and sinew of the strike, and freedom fighters. Their story is the focus of a new documentary: “Ludlow, Greek Americans During The Colorado Coal War.” The film screens at the University of Colorado in Boulder on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Frosso Tsouka of Athens, Greece is one of the filmmakers and retired Colorado district judge Chris Melonakis of Westminster is a descendant of Greek miners. They spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel.

Trailer for “Ludlow: Greek Americans in the Colorado Coal War.”

John McCutcheon sings The Colorado Strike Song at the Ludlow Massacre Memorial, April 18, 2014. 


In 1910, the year Louis Tikas filed his citizenship papers, he was part owner of a Greek coffee house on Market Street in Denver. By the end of 1912 he was an organizer for the United Mine Workers of America. In between he worked as a miner-strikebreaker in Colorado’s Northern (Coal) Field but ended up leading a walkout by sixty-three fellow Greeks at the Frederick, Colorado mine. It was a short journey in time, but a long leap across the ages.

“So Tikas enters his destiny,” wrote Zeese Papanikolas:

It is a moment worth considering. In making the turn from scab to striker he was following the path of thousands of immigrants before him, of whole nationalities. In a profound way, more than at that moment when he set foot on Ellis Island, more than at that other moment when he signed his first papers with a new name, walking out of the Frederick stockade was the most American thing he had done. The revolt of the Greeks in the Utah Copper Company mines [led by the Western Federation of Miners in September 1912] was prophetic. For when the Greeks at Bingham, Utah, rose up against [the padrone] Leonidas Skliris, without knowing it they were rising up against a whole ethos, that ignorance, that poverty in their past which had created such men as Skliris and which, in this New World so desperately needed them. The Bingham strike had not made union men of the Greeks. It was for Tikas and the immigrant organizers like him to take such unformed revolts one step further; to make of the anarchy of the industrial world a map (Papanikolas, Page 49. Emphasis added).

In 1912 there had been much recent history in the ongoing struggles to construct such a map; a mighty conflict was still being waged against the power of monopoly capital by the American people. Politically, that war had manifested itself in the Populist movement; the Grange movement and the farmers’ revolt; the 1896 candidacy of William Jennings Bryan for President; and the efforts to build a party of labor. On the labor front were the struggles to build national and industrial unions to effectively counter the power of the great trusts. Fierce battles were fought in the great strikes of the period. There was the great railroad strike of 1877, the first nationwide strike in history, where “American troops fired on American workingmen as regiments under General Phil Sheridan were recalled from fighting the Sioux and thrown against the workers of Chicago” (Boyer and Morais, Page 59).

There was the massacre of union men at Homestead (Pennsylvania) Steel in 1892 and the bloody defeat of the Eugene Debs-led American Railway Union in 1894 when monopoly pulled out all the stops and used the power of the federal government (employing 14,000 troops, marshals and police) to break the Pullman Strike. In Colorado, state Governors used troops to act as strikebreakers on behalf of corporate interests on ten separate occasions between 1879 and 1904 (and would again at Ludlow in 1914), mostly against the Western Federation of Miners and the United Mine Workers (Ibid., Page 142).

Although the broader issue largely had been settled by the time Louis Tikas became a UMWA organizer in 1912 the war had not ended, and the legacy and spirit of those working people’s struggles were not lost on him and others of his generation.

Tikas was chased from the northern field, shot and wounded by Baldwin-Felts detectives as he escaped through the back door of a boarding house in Lafayette, Colorado in January 1910. But he had proved his worth as an organizer among the Greek workers to UMWA leaders like John Lawson, District 15 International organizer (Papanikolas, Pages 51-52). When the UMWA held a special convention in Trinidad, Colorado September 16, 1913 to list its demands and issue the Southern Field strike call, Tikas was there (Ibid., Page 76).

Philip Foner pointed out, “As in the case of the 1903 strike, nearly all of the demands were already on the statute books of Colorado but had been ignored by the company” (Foner, Page 201). CF&I further ignored the miners’ strike demands and immediately evicted between eleven and thirteen thousand of them from the company houses they and their families lived in. A mass exodus soon took place:

They hitched their scrawny teams to wagons, loaded their shabby belongings and frightened families, and began the slow trip down the canyons toward the tent cities [thirteen colonies overall, provided by the union] in locations near Walsenburg, Aguilar, Ludlow, Forbes, and Starkville.

Clouds boiled down over the mountains and dumped an icy rain on the slow caravans. Horses and mules slipped and stumbled in the mud as they wound their way down steep grades. Miners cursed. Women wept. Children, too miserable to cry, huddled in the wagons, peering out through the cold sleet, their faces pinched and ghostlike in the gloom (Sampson, ‘Remember Ludlow!, Page 12).

The tent colony at Ludlow–under Louis Tikas’ leadership–was the largest of these. Located eighteen miles north of Trinidad, it became home for more than a thousand people (including most of the Greek workers and their families) for the next six months, during which one of Colorado’s worst winters was to unfold.

March to Tragedy The events of the next six months were a steady march toward tragedy, toward what Foner labeled “one of the most shameful episodes in American history” (Foner, Page 196). In keeping with the tried and true formula used so successfully against striking workers in the past, CF&I moved swiftly to the attack. It immediately doubled its guard force, made up largely of Baldwin-Felts detectives, increased their weapons stores and laid siege to the tent colonies. An armored car (the “Death Special”) with a mounted machine gun, built especially by the company for the purpose, ceaselessly patrolled the strike district, firing into the tent colonies indiscriminately. The Forbes colony was fired into on October 17, killing one miner and severely wounding a little boy and girl (Sampson, ‘Remember Ludlow!’, Pages 13-14). “On October 24, mine guards, wearing deputy sheriff badges as usual, fired into a group of strikers in Walsenburg an killed four of them” (Foner, Page 202).

Colorado Governor Ammons on October 31 sent the National Guard–a thousand troops under the command of union-hater General John Chase–into the strike district. These troops were ordered to remain neutral (as they did at first), but as time passed, many grew tired of the duty and quit. They were replaced more and more by company thugs who drew double paychecks, one from the state and one from the coal companies (Ibid., Page 203. Sampson, ‘Remember Ludlow!’, Page 14).

Then, “On November 28, Governor Ammons, yielding to pressure, lifted the ban on the importation of strikebreakers from outside the state and ordered the militia to become the protective agent for the escort of the scabs into the mines.” This pressure of course came from the usual sources: mine owners, bankers, businessmen, citizens’ committees, newspaper editors, etc. (Foner, Page 203).

Meanwhile, the companies’ terror campaign against the tent colonies was stepped up:

In searching the miners’ tents for guns, the militiamen robbed them and even raped some of the women. Strikers were thrown into jail without the slightest provocation and were held without any opportunity to prove their innocence.

Mother Jones [who had come to Colorado to assist the miners] was arrested and held incommunicado for twenty days, with two armed sentries posted outside her prison door…. [In January] militia cavalrymen destroyed the tent colony near Forbes and drove the inhabitants, including women and children, into a mountain snowstorm (Ibid., Page 203).

The stage was set for the “final solution” in early April 1914, when “Governor Ammons withdrew all but two of the [National Guard] troops from the field…leaving Company A, a cavalry outfit, and Troop B in the field. These two troops were made up mostly of company men, mine guards and gunmen and were stationed near Ludlow” (Sampson, ‘Remember Ludlow!’, Page 16).
THE EPILOGUE

The Ludlow Massacre began the morning of April 20, the day after the people at the Ludlow colony had celebrated their Greek Easter. After the explosion of several bombs, an apparent signal to attack, troops surrounding the colony began firing into it. All day long, machine gun bullets ripped through the tents. As Joanna Sampson has described the scene: “The tent colony exploded in terror. People dodged bullets. Frantic parents searched for their children while screaming ‘run for the hills!’ Dogs and chickens ran wildly up and down the streets” (Ibid., Page 19).

Toward evening, the soldiers “advanced with [Rockefeller] Standard oil, soaked the tents and set them afire” (O’Connor, Page 1). Soon after, Louis Tikas, who during the long day had heroically helped women, children and the wounded escape the carnage, was captured by the militia and taken before Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt, who grabbed a rifle and broke it over Tikas’ head. Though the exact details following that incident are not known, Tikas soon was dead, shot three times in the back. Thus the circumstances of Tikas’ death–even though it is well known he was murdered by coal company managers and the state of Colorado–are similar to what is left us about his life: a “shadow caught against the flow of history.” But the shadow cast by his legacy for future generations of working people is a long one.

The next day two women and eleven children were found dead in a pit the miners had dug beneath one of the tents, suffocated where they had retreated to escape the bullets and fire. More than 30 were killed and 100 wounded during the course of the strike. The strikers fought back savagely after Ludlow, attacking company property and firing on mine guards throughout the district. The war ended only when federal troops arrived on the scene to enforce a truce.

“John D. Rockefeller, Jr. won the Ludlow Massacre,” Harvey O’Connor wrote. “The women and children were no match for him.”

The scorn of the nation was turned on this industrial autocrat. Men and women in mourning picketed his offices at 26 Broadway, New York City. He was denounced in Congress and all over America. President Wilson directed the Industrial Relations Commission to find out why he and his fellow millionaires hated unions so much that they would murder to protect the open shop. [Detailed accounts of the strike and massacre appear as part of the testimony before that commission. Foner and others have relied extensively on the findings in their studies.]

In vain did Rockefeller and his aged father try to wash the blood of Ludlow from their hands by lavish gifts to charity. For every dollar they gave away, a mother wept a bitter tear for her charred child; a widow breathed a curse upon the murderer of her husband (O’Connor, Pages 1-2).

Hidden Armenian and Greek Celebrities in Turkish Cinema

Being a celebrity is often associated with having a certain lifestyle. Fame often brings fortune, privileges, and opportunities—whether they are career-related or not. Celebrities are thought to have an “easier” life, in which they get special treatment wherever they go—well, except for celebrities in Turkey who are Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Jewish, or members of any other ethnic or religious minority. Sometimes, even being associated with them is considered unacceptable.

Ayhan Işık, for example, was the most beloved Turkish leading actor in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was also a movie producer, director, script writer, singer, and painter. He was nicknamed by Turkish people “the king without a crown”– a king who had to change his Armenian-sounding last name to be able to have an acting career.


Ayhan Işık

His parents were originally from Salonika (now Thessaloniki, Greece). Born in Izmir in 1926, Ayhan lost his father at the age of six. His family then moved to Istanbul, where he attended the painting department of the State Fine Arts Academy. He first became a painter and graphic designer and worked for several magazines in Istanbul. According to his known biography, upon the insistence and encouragement of the editor-in-chief of Yıldız magazine—for which he was then working—he entered an acting competition organized by the magazine and came in first. But before he entered it, he had a major concern: his last name, Işıyan, could have been perceived to be Armenian. This concern made him change his surname and adopt a Turkish one: Işık.

Thanks to his enormous talent, good looks, and charisma, he became a living legend in Turkish cinema and played in numerous movies. Işık died in 1979 at the age of 50, which shocked his family, friends, and fans.

Nubar Terziyan, another well-known actor from Turkey, was one of the few Armenian actors who did not change his name. He was devastated by the untimely death of Işık, who used to call him “father.” In 1979, Terziyan placed a notice in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, which read:

“My son, Ayhan, this world is ephemeral. Death is the fate of us all. But you did not die. For you still live in our hearts and in the hearts of millions of people that you have left behind. How blessed you are. (…) Your uncle, Nubar Terziyan.”

Ayhan Işık and Nubar Terziyan share a scene

Apparently, Işık’s family was concerned, terrified, and even infuriated that the notice could have made people think Işık was Armenian. They responded with a public display of racism in a counter-notice in Hürriyet:

“Important correction: Our dearest Ayhan Işık has nothing to do with the notice undersigned as ‘your uncle’. (…) We regretfully announce as we see it necessary. -His family.”

30 years later, Berç Alyanakziya, the son of Terziyan, gave an interview to Hürriyet in 2009 about the tension between his father and Işık’s wife following his death. According to Hürriyet,

“Events that happened right after he placed a death notice for Işık in the daily Hürriyet made him more sorrowful. Işık’s wife, Gülşen, reacted negatively toward Terziyan, who wrote below the notice ‘your father Nubar,’ as Işık called him. The reason was that the real surname of Işık was Işıyan, which had been kept a secret. Because the name Işıyan reminds one of an Armenian name, he changed it to Işık.

“Terziyan’s son Berç Alyanakziya said the following about the reason for the wife’s reaction: ‘Everyone thought that Ayhan Işık was Armenian because of his real surname, Işıyan. When my father placed this notice and wrote ‘your father Nubar,’ people thought that they were close relatives and Işık was an Armenian, too.”

Because of this negative reaction, on June 21, Terziyan placed another notice in the paper in which he disclaimed his former notice.

But according to Professor Fatma Müge Göçek, Işıyan was indeed Armenian. She wrote in her 2014 book Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789-2009:

“Such silencing also occurred in the case of another famous actor, Ayhan Işık, who was also of Armenian origin but carefully silenced his ethnic identity.”

One of the precautions many Armenians in Turkey take against racist attacks is to adopt a Turkish name to use in their social and job-related interactions with Turks. One was Kirkor Cezveciyan, an Armenian superstar of Turkish cinema. He was registered with his real name on his official identification card, but used a Turkish name for the screen: Kenan Pars. The journalist Nayat Karaköse wrote in 2008 after Pars’s death:

“Pars was only one of the many Armenians who changed their names… he was one of the hundreds of Armenians with two business cards. 

Some Armenians−particularly men−possess two business cards in Turkey. They have both an Armenian name and a Turkish one they later adopted. Armenianness is visible only within the [Armenian] community; it is not visible in public sphere. Particularly 20 or 30 years ago, this ‘invisible’ Armenian phenomenon was even more widespread.”


Kenan Pars (Kirkor Cezveciyan) with child actress Zeynep Değirmencioğlu, also known as ‘Ayşecik’

In an interview, Pars said that because he was a non-Muslim, he was not given guns while doing his compulsory military service in the city of Balikesir. Instead, he was given tools to dig.

Hürriyet noted a reality that speaks volumes about the level of racism and bigotry against indigenous peoples in Turkey: “Most Armenian and Greek artists changed their names to Turkish names for the screen upon request of producers.” Adile Naşit, one of the greatest actresses in Turkish cinema, was only one of them.

Adile Nasit’s family: grandmother Küçük Virjin, uncle Niko, mother Amelya and brother Selim Naşit. (Photo: Hurriyet)

Known for her joyous and remarkable laughter, her family movies and her TV show in which she told children tales and stories, she was known by Turks as “mother Hafize”– after a character she performed in one of her movies. But the “mother” of Turkish people was hiding something: her Greek roots.

Some internet sources claim that Naşit was of Armenian origin. But according to the official website of the Women’s Museum Istanbul, Naşit was the granddaughter of a well-known Greek dancer, who was born in 1870 and known as Küçük Virjin. A graduate of the Galata Greek Primary School, Küçük Virjin was the first Greek canto dancer in the Ottoman Empire. Her husband, Yorgi, as well as her two sons− Niko and Andre−were all musicians. Her daughter, Amalia, also became a well-known canto dancer and theatre actress in the late Ottoman era.

Her granddaughter, Adela, Amalia’s daughter, was born in the Turkish Republic, which has been hostile to Greeks. She adopted a Turkish name, “Adile,” became “Adile Naşit,” and never used her real Greek name during her career.

The scholar Gönül Dönmez-Colin writes in her 2008 book Turkish Cinema: Identity, Distance, and Belonging:

“The one-nation policy of the Turkish Republic established in 1923 made life difficult for all minorities. Many converted to Islam and kept their identity secret all their lives.


Nubar Terziyan

“Like the Kurds and other ethnic minorities, non-Muslims have also been invisible in Turkish cinema. Several ethnic minority personalities made their mark in the industry, but often their identity had to be masked… Nubar Terziyan (Alyanak) remains an important character actor in Turkish cinema with his lovable ‘uncle’ image in over 400 films. Although he never hid his Armenian identity, very few people knew that Kenan Pars, who played the bad man in more than 500 films, was actually born Kirkor Cezveciyan. Sami Hazinses, who devoted 45 years to Turkish cinema, had to hide his Armenian identity (Samuel Uluç) all his life for fear of reprisals; his secret was discovered only at his funeral when the procession had to be transferred from the mosque to the church.”

One could be the most peace-loving, law-abiding, and hard-working citizen of Turkey. One could even be unlimitedly talented, and have the best looks and work ethic. But sadly, one’s non-Turkish roots are still a “challenge” in one’s social life and career.

For one to have a safe life and a successful career in Turkey, he or she has to be Turkish and a Muslim. Turkishness and Islam are believed by much of the Turkish public to be intertwined. But if minority citizens still have the courage to keep their non-Turkish names and non-Islamic faith, they still know that they had better not be very outspoken about these things. Non-Muslims in Turkey – through real-life “experiences” − are always “taught” to know their place.

The Turkish state has demonized Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Jews, Kurds, and other minority citizens to such an extent that it has made many of them carry their ethnic roots like a burden on their shoulders. It has turned their identities into giant faults—even “crimes.” That is what prevented these very talented people from proudly expressing and being who they really were.

VASSY Took Home the WDM Award for Best Electronic Vocalist


Singer, songwriter, and producer, VASSY, has recently been awarded the Best Electronic Vocalist at the World Dance Radio Awards (WDM). The World Dance Radio Awards took place on Wednesday, March 5, 2017 at the sold out Estadio Azteca in Mexico city where VASSY appeared alongside some of the biggest names in dance music; David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Nervo, Alan Walker and Cedric Gervais, in front of 100,000 exhilarated Mexican fans. It was no surprise to see VASSY’s infectious energy fuel the crowd, upholding the talented songstress’s reputation as the queen of EDM. Fans from all over the world voted for VASSY making her the first ever vocalist to win a WDM award as well as the only female solo artist to win at this year’s awards ceremony.


VASSY’s career rose into the spotlight in 2014 with her Multi-Platinum and 12 X worldwide Platinum collaboration “BAD,” with David Guetta and Showtek, which garnered her an IDMA award for Best Vocal Performance in 2015. VASSY proved to be a true triple threat when the following years she released her collaboration with Tiësto and Kshmr on the No. 1 electro-house Multi-Platinum single, “Secrets,” which met massive successes, adding more awards and platinum certifications under her belt. Since then, VASSY has been taking over festival arenas with Tiësto during his 2016 Ultra, Electric Zoo and Tomorrowland sets, proving she’s unstoppable. Her latest high-energy dance-floor solo record “Nothing To Lose,” co-produced by Tiësto, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Charts and on U.S. Dance Radio, as well as vaulted into the Top 10 of the Billboard Dance/Mix Show charts within the first three months of its release.


In addition to her hit dance collaborations, VASSY’s catchy lyrics and distinctive vocals have been featured in campaigns for Victoria’s Secret, Target, Sketchers, Nike, and Pepsi commercials, as well as in Disney’s official trailer for Oscar-winning movie, Frozen, the film Admission starring Tina Fey, and television shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty and Pretty Little Liars. VASSY’s productions range across the musical spectrum; from dance to pop and reggae, while you can also enjoy her indie side on her latest acoustic album release, “VASSY Unplugged.”

Muli-Platinum and Gold recording artist of many talents, VASSY, knows how to individualize herself against the tide of followers. Originating from Australia with Greek heritage, VASSY’s vocal roots lie in an array of different genres. As a singer, songwriter, and producer, her music speaks for itself and her progressive popularity in dance music is massive. Conquering the DJ world with her authentic sound has lead to a worldwide No. 1 hit with David Guetta & Showtek on their track “BAD,” which is certified 7 times double platinum, as well as winning an IDMA Award for Best Featured Vocalist Performance in 2015. “BAD” has had over 600 million views on Youtube, downloaded 2 million times and streamed via Spotify over 280 million times. 

In 2015 she collaborated with Tiësto and KSHMR on their track, “Secrets,” hitting over 80 million Spotify plays and 130 million Youtube views. “Secrets” went straight to number 1 in 20 countries, reigned atop the Billboard Club Charts and Beatport charts, and earned an IDMA Award for Best Electro Progressive/House track in 2016. VASSY joined forces once again in 2016 with Tiësto on her #1 standalone hit single, “Nothing To Lose,” a high-energy dance-floor friendly masterpiece. Co-produced by the legendary Tiësto, this progressive house-gem is bound to fuel the urge to get up and dance. 

Filled with uplifting original lyrics and momentous energy, the record quickly hit No. 1 on U.S. Dance Radio, No.1 on the Billboard Dance Club charts, and vaulted into the Top 10 of the Billboard Dance/Mix show charts.

In addition to her success in dance music, VASSY’s songs have been featured everywhere including, Target, Nickelodeon, Sketchers, Victoria’s Secret, Pepsi commercials, Grey’s Anatomy, and even Disney’s Oscar-winning film, “Frozen,”. VASSY’s captivating voice is soulful and enchanting, and will lure you into any track she sings. 

The versatile artist has also ventured into indie-pop on her No. 1 Billboard Dance Club song “We Are Young,” channeling a vivacious tone that will put you in high spirits. VASSY’s effortless dexterity as both versatile singer and songwriter is undeniable.

Even with her music career taking flight, VASSY has always prioritized her philanthropic work with charity groups and civil rights organizations. She is an active equal-rights ambassador for the NOH8 campaign, a spokesperson for environmental organization Green IT, works with Studio Samuel Foundation helping girls in Ethiopia, and supports youth through Playground of Dreams. 

Be it through her music, volunteerism giving back to the communities, VASSY’s goal is to inspire people to fight for their dreams. Whether she’s singing, writing, or producing music, VASSY has an immensely credible portfolio to admire.

April is National Poetry Month featuring Greek-American Poet Alexandra Kostoulas

Home. Not Home by Alexandra Kostoulas

I cried as the red moon rose.

We listened to mirologoi that

randomly came on my ipad.

We drank mavrodaphne and ate chocolate.

We spoke of the dead

and of our regrets and our hopes.

In my dad’s village—

where I belong

and where I don’t.
 
Meet the poet Alexandra Kostoulas

Alexandra Kostoulas is an award-winning writer of poetry, fiction and journalism. She is the founder of the San Francisco Creative Writing Institute and cofounder of the Mid-Market News. She has performed her work on stage locally and nationally and is currently working on finishing up her novel Persephone Stolen that weaves in tales of the Persephone myth, the immigrant experience and stolen artifacts. She teaches people to find their voice and unblock themselves creatively every day at Jack Grapes’ Method Writing Program and at SF Creative Writing Institute.